MENEZES DOUBLES AT SKUSA SUPERNATIONALS XIII WITH TWO PODIUM FINISHES Tony Kart driver awarded entry into Jim Russell Championship Series Future Driver shoot-out LAS VEGAS, NV (November 22, 2009) -- Gustavo Menezes closed out a solid 2009 ...
MENEZES DOUBLES AT SKUSA SUPERNATIONALS XIII WITH TWO PODIUM FINISHES
Tony Kart driver awarded entry into Jim Russell Championship Series Future Driver shoot-out
LAS VEGAS, NV (November 22, 2009) -- Gustavo Menezes closed out a solid 2009 season at the 13th running of the Superkarts! USA SuperNationals, the largest karting event in the United States, which is held annually outside the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The November 18-22 event will go down in history as one of biggest races in North American karting as a number of professional drivers from around the world contested the 6/10-mile temporary circuit. Menezes was looking to secure a piece of history of his own, competing in both the new KF2 division and the TaG Senior for the first time in his career. The 15-year old fought valiantly in both, nearly securing his third SuperNats title with a great run in TaG Senior, walking away with a podium finish in both main events. The icing on the cake, however, was the Jim Russell Championship Series Future Driver Scholarship that he received for his weekend performance.
The KF2 division made its first ever appearance at the SuperNationals this year with the largest field ever seen in North America (31 entries) and Menezes was looking to become the inaugural winner. His bid for the title began in the right direction following a solid qualifying performance of second overall, just 0.051s off the fast lap. The opening heat race, however, hurt his chances at retaining the position for the main event as contact on the first lap put Menezes to the tail of the field, eventually finishing 23rd. The second 12-lap sprint saw more contact hamper Menezes' chances. After running inside the top-five, contact on lap four sent him back to roughly 20th in the order before he worked back up to 16th at the checkered. Avoiding the melees in the final heat race, Menezes ran the third 12-lap heat in the lead group en route to a third place run.
His results put him 14th on the starting grid for the main event. Getting through the opening corners unharmed, Menezes was up to 10th the first time across the stripe. As the laps clicked off, Menezes' Tony Kart chassis and Vortex engine continued to get quicker as he moved up the order. By the halfway signal, Menezes had worked himself into sixth and closing on the top-five. After reaching the tail end of the lead group, Menezes calculated the right maneuvers to assume the fourth position while running some of the fastest laps of the race. At the checkered, Menezes held onto the fourth spot and earned a trip to the podium.
"It was a great race," stated Menezes on his first trip to the podium. "Once the kart starting coming in, it was like a rocket. My goal was to try and get up through the field quickly and as clean as I could. Luckily, we had the package to do that and I'm thankful to be here."
In a stacked TaG Senior field of 80 total drivers, Menezes was one of the few to run double duty throughout the five-day event. Certainly, double the track time in similar divisions helped Menezes and his Tony Kart West team find the base line set-up rather quickly, and it showed in qualifying. Posting times quicker than current IndyCar, Grand-Am and international karting stars, Menezes was second in the order following the timed session to put him on the front row for all three heats. Knowing that one major slip up could cost him a solid start in the main event or a chance at not making the final, Menezes played the first heat race safe by not making any daring maneuvers. Despite running consistent fast laps, Menezes slipped back to fifth at the end of the first heat race. In the second flight, Menezes was able to break away with the lead and cruised to the win by over half a second. The final heat was a great warm-up battle for the main as Menezes fought off one of the race favorites for a photo finish win of 0.002s at the line.
With two wins and a top-five run, Gustavo earned the outside row one spot alongside Indy 500 winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon. The two led the 40-kart main event field to the green flag. After some opening lap jostling, Menezes held his second position as a four-kart lead pack formed together to break away from the rest of the crowd. In what was one of the best battles for the win in the entire event, the top four swapped the lead numerous times over the course of the 25-lap affair. Retaking the lead on lap 19, Menezes looked to hold on to the position. When the white flag was shown, Menezes was ensued in a battle for the lead in the first half of the track. Coming into the final corners, Menezes held the top spot until being pushed off line by his primary challenger. The result saw Menezes fall back to third in the order as they crossed the line. Following the officials debriefing, the driver who made hard contact with Menezes was penalized two positions, moving Gustavo up to the second step on the podium.
"It was a great weekend," Menezes commented in his second trip to the podium. "My mechanics Seth Nash and Christophe did an amazing job and I have to thank Buddy Rice along with the rest of the Tony Kart West crew for giving me the opportunity to compete with them. We had some trouble at the end of the race there and I would have enjoyed the win so much, but a second place in a field like this is great for my Senior debut at the SuperNats."
Despite not bagging his third SuperNationals victory with it so close to becoming a reality, Menezes' performance earned him a Jim Russell Championship Series Future Driver Scholarship. The free entry into the shoot-out will be for a spot in the Future Driver with Allan McNish ride in the 2010 Jim Russell Championship Series.
Menezes was thrilled to learn that he was selected as one of two drivers from the SuperNats event, "This so exciting. I can't wait to get into their car and see what I can do with an open wheel machine. A lot of successful drivers have come from the Jim Russell Racing School program and I hope to be one as well."
Gustavo is able to compete at this level thanks to his many sponsors, including Tony Kart USA, Red Bull, UP Racing, Safety Park Inc., K1 Speed, K1 Race Gear, Tony Kart Junior Racing Team, On Track Promotions and Oakley.